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Opinion

Vaccines don’t stop transmission – it’s time to truly live with COVID-19

All legal COVID-19 restrictions have ended. In one week’s time, if you have been double-jabbed, you will not have to self-isolate even if you come into contact with a positive test. Over 75% of the British population has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

So there we have it. The pandemic is over and everything is back to normal, right? I mean, on a day-to-day basis, depending on how you live your life, this might be true. But the reality is, the nation is still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flick on any mainstream news channel and you will see reporters dissecting tiny increases or decreases in daily COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalisations.

Sky News remains particularly gripped by the pandemic. Throughout lockdown, before its show went to a break, there would be a reminder of what rules were in place to curb the spread of COVID-19; the rule of six, the two-metre rule, and so on.

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

And now, despite all restrictions having been lifted, such reminders still remain – except, there are no restrictions to remind us of. And so, the reminders simply state that there are no legal restrictions in place, as if anyone could forget.

This surmounts to a nation still mentally challenged by the last 18 months, unable to break free of its sheer obsession with daily figures, or the fear of things getting out of hand once again.

Cases are not low – yesterday, 23,510 people tested positive – nor are deaths, as 622 people died in the last seven days. But things are not as bad as they may seem.

Indeed, we must ask ourselves – do these figures equate to a significant disease burden? If 622 people died every week for an entire year, 32,444 people would die from COVID-19.

Of course, that is an extremely weak way to predict a potential yearly death toll from COVID-19. More would likely die in winter, though perhaps less would die in spring and summer, with there to be no artificial rise in cases in the immediate aftermath of a ‘Freedom Day’-style event.

Given that, on average, 30,000 people will die in a bad flu year, around 32,000-35,000 deaths would surely be an acceptable price to pay, right now, if it means we can continue to live our lives free from draconian restrictions?

Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

This always seems like quite a harsh statement, and indeed a harsh trade-off. But as silly as it may seem to say, it needs saying – people die. People have died from COVID-19 and people will continue to die from COVID-19. People have died from other diseases and will continue to do so. It is something we simply must accept.

Vaccines will no doubt continue to save lives as uptake increases, and more prescriptive remedies will be developed, too. This means that in two or three years, yearly deaths from COVID-19 could average below 30,000. Chris Whitty himself stated that 25,000 deaths per year would be acceptable.

Seemingly, then, we are not far off that reality. So why all the panic? Why the continued obsession with daily rises and falls? The way certain people continue to treat the pandemic is no longer proportionate to the risk, especially in light of a recent report presented by scientist to MPs.

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on COVID-19, Professor Andrew Pollard, member of the Oxford vaccine team, stated: “Anyone who is still unvaccinated will, at some point, meet the virus.”

“We don’t have anything that will stop transmission, so I think we are in a situation where herd immunity is not a possibility.”

Given this reality, Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, also told the Parliamentary group: “We need to start moving away from just reporting infections, or just reporting positive cases admitted to hospital, to actually start reporting the number of people who are ill because of Covid.”

“Otherwise we are going to be frightening ourselves with very high numbers that actually don’t translate into disease burden.”

Pollard went on to argue that continued mass testing would create a false sense of danger and would ultimately lead to a perpetual [and unnecessary] cycle of vaccination.

And yet, as noted, vaccines are never going to eliminate transmission. If we constantly use positive cases as reasons to re-vaccinate, the cycle will never be broken.

The solution?

Pollard states that testing needs to move towards ‘clinically driven testing in which people are willing to get tested and treated and managed, rather than lots of community testing’.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done, both practically and mentally. If we stop mass testing, we might lose sight of virus hotspots and therefore find it difficult to locate those seriously ill with COVID-19, making it harder to treat them.

It is also a big leap to make considering the scale of testing in this country for the last 12 months. At times, we have been testing one million people every day. It is a remarkable feat of science. Now, though, it is simply not necessary.

Vaccines will continue to play an important role in fighting COVID-19. They will, essentially, turn COVID-19 into a very mild illness for most who catch it.

I, for one, can attest to this. Despite being double-jabbed, I contracted COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago. For a couple of days, it felt as though I had jumped in a pool and accidentally snorted the water; I also lost my sense of smell and taste. Perhaps most interestingly, I developed a crippling obsession with Hugh Grant rom-coms from the 1990s.

Two weeks later, I am completely fine, back in the gym and no longer longing for the love Grant’s characters so easily found. Ultimately, the vaccine did its job: it neutralised COVID-19 and saved my life. It is worth noting that I am a type-one diabetic and asthmatic, seemingly more vulnerable.

The vaccines work better than we could have ever hoped. They are saving lives. Now, we need to take the next big leap – it is time to truly live with COVID-19.

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Opinion

Not-so-New Labour: why Keir Starmer is failing

He was meant to be the man, the Lord and Saviour, the man who could pull Labour back from the brink – dare I say it, the new Tony Blair. Nearly one year on, Keir Starmer’s Labour revolution has barely even begun.

Last April, Keir Starmer replaced one of the Labour party’s most controversial leaders ever, Jeremy Corbyn, after it suffered its worst electoral result in nearly one hundred years.

It was the 2019 General Election that saw Labour lose 60 seats, many of which were thought to be part of an indestructible ‘Red Wall’ – and yet, as in Westeros, the wall came crashing down.

Labour lost Birmingham Northfield, Wrexham, Bridgend – perhaps most shocking was the loss of Bolsover; this saw Parliament’s longest-serving MP, Dennis Skinner, lose his seat.

It truly was a shocking performance and there is no doubt that the party leadership had to change – it was not resonating with the public anymore. But why?

There are likely many reasons for Labour’s shocking performance. Perhaps the British public simply was not interested in a radical, left-wing government; the party had also been unforgivably slow and reluctant to deal with a vile anti-Semitism that had spread across the party.

However, this contradicts Corbyn & co’s success just two years earlier, when they forced Theresa May’s minority government into cahoots with the Northern Irish DUP.

Rather, it is abundantly clear that Labour’s historic defeat was largely defined by Britain’s issue of the day: Brexit.

Corbyn failed to clarify his stance during the 2016 referendum and then proceeded to vote against every single solution May’s government came up with. To this day I could not tell you what Corbyn wanted out of Brexit.

Of the 60 seats lost by Labour, all but eight voted to leave the European Union – that is 52 constituencies that looked at Labour’s dreadful Brexit stance [if you can even say they had one] and thought “I’m not having any of that”.

The eventual winner Boris Johnson, on the other hand, framed the 2019 GE as the second referendum Remainers had craved for so long. The results of this make-shift referendum were so conclusive that talk of an actual follow-up all but disappeared.

It is worth noting that Keir Starmer was a ferocious Remainer himself, and frequently called for a second referendum during his time as Shadow Brexit secretary.

So, given the huge role Brexit clearly played in the last election, was it really wise to respond to the nation’s decision to double-down on Brexit with somebody who does not believe in it at all?

Of course, Starmer would tell you now he wanted the ‘will of the people’ to be respected, but his prior behaviour clearly suggested otherwise.

To make matters worse for Starmer, Boris has since ‘Got Brexit Done’, achieving a deal that, at least on some level, has managed to appease most factions across the country: Remainers were relieved to see a deal, while hard-liners were happy to see us leave the single market and customs union.

But it would be lazy to pin Starmer’s troubles solely on Brexit – the reality is, it is no longer the nation’s biggest worry.

As well all know, the UK has been gripped in battle against the deadly COVID-19 virus for over one year, which has totally upended the normal political agenda.

Perennial debates about the economy, education and the state of welfare have not disappeared, but have been re-framed in the context of a global pandemic.

It’s no longer about improving education, it’s about getting kids into school safely; it’s not about who should get welfare, it’s about who isn’t being furloughed.

I am in no way suggesting that Starmer and his party should exploit a terrible situation in what would be a ruthless and maniacal attempt to move up the polls, but these are issues Labour have dealt with before, and frankly, they should be doing a much better job holding the government to account for its inexcusable mistakes.

The ground is ripe for opposition and we are in dire need of it: the UK has the third-highest per-capita death rate in the world and has experienced some of the worst case and hospitalisation rates across Western Europe. We lack a fully functioning test & trace system, as the UK government fails to provide indispensable support to those in need across the country.

And yet, the government has been given a fairly easy ride. That is because Starmer’s priority appears to be ‘one-upping’ the government, rather than dealing with the issues that so desperately need addressing.

A common criticism has been that Labour waits until it hears rumblings of a policy that the government is seemingly veering towards; it then calls on the government to do exactly what it is already planning to already do.

One recent example is the party’s suddenly extreme stance on the issue of border control; we have been in this pandemic over one year, with this particular issue being one of concern for some time now.

Despite this, it is only now that Labour are attempting to dominate the national discourse and lament the Tories for their lack of action – even more ironic, then, that Starmer was an avid Remainer.

Unsurprisingly, the government already plans to introduce ‘quarantine hotels’ for high-risk countries.

And then there is issue of schools. This is a very sensitive moral dilemma, the solution to which is by no means easy.

Right at the start of the year, Boris and his government were hammered by the national press for dithering and delaying on the issue of school closures. In a typical-timely manner, right at the last moment, Starmer urged to the government to close schools – just days later, the government did.

Now the party’s policy has changed again: vaccinate all teachers and open schools immediately – keep in mind, the country has not yet vaccinated everyone from the four most vulnerable groups. Not only this, but there would still be 17 million more people considered to be at high-risk of serious disease in need of vaccination.

The desire to vaccinate nearly one million people who work in schools would mean one million people with serious vulnerabilities not getting vaccinated and would almost certainly lead to unnecessary deaths.

It would be understandable if teachers were at serious risk of illness or death, but the profession sits in 12th for overall number of COVID-related deaths – with lorry drivers first, why is the focus not on giving them greater protection?

Starmer’s overall position on education perfectly encapsulates the party’s approach over the last year: wait until the right moment to criticise the government, claim they are holding it to account when it inevitably enacts a policy, and then wait for a new angle on the same issue.

Seemingly, the public see right through it: the latest YouGov/Times voting intention figures show the Conservatives on 39% (+1), gaining a lead over Labour, who are down on 38% (-1).

As for a recent Survation poll, Conservative voting intentions sit at 39%(-2), while Labour remains unchanged at 37% – even as the Tories drop, Labour do not gain.

The gap is respectable, perhaps even more so given the dismal outcome of the last General Election, but the trajectory is worrying and with this government, it should be doing much better.

In a recent interview we conducted with ‘The Kunts’, a satirical-punk band most famous for its recent song ‘Boris Johnson is Fucking Cunt’, Kunt, the main act, gave us a sense of what people across the country think of the Labour leader:

“When I look at Keir Starmer, I just see Tony Blair. He’s part of the system because he’s a “Sir” presiding over the Crown Prosecution Service when they chucked out the Jimmy Saville case. I’m not saying he’s personally responsible but it’s what he represents as a leader”

Starmer’s first year as Labour leader must be considered a failure. The party is failing to hold the government to account, it’s failing to win over the public and lacks any sort of general image or policy direction.

There are four years until the next General Election, so there is some time yet to shift the post-pandemic debate in Labour’s favour.

If the last 12 months are any indication, however, Keir Starmer has shown he is incapable of leading the Labour party.

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LRC

LeftRight to Centre: an introduction

This is LeftRight to Centre, a political blog determined to ensure beliefs of all political persuasions are given an equal platform.

Social media can be great at times. I would not even be able to start and share this blog without it. From long-lost lovers to long-lost brothers, it connects people around the globe like nothing else.

But it has a dark side. It can also divide people like nothing else. Much of said division can be attributed to algorithms used by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These algorithms prey upon your internet usage to determine what may or may not be of interest to you, when and in what context.

Users are essentially pigeon-holed into their own unique, endless echo chambers, leaving them confused and conflicted when they happen upon people with different perspectives.

This is an especially difficult issue when it comes to politics, which is no doubt more divided than ever. Some students get to university campuses and are shocked to see their fellow students do not have Jeremy Corbyn cardboard cutouts in their bedroom. Others are shocked to hear that daddy is not paying for their tuition fees up front.

These kind of divisions are nothing new and their existence is not solely down to social media, though it clearly serves to amplify and reinforce them.

The key is start investigating the divisions, rather than solidifying them – engaging with the other side, rather than rejecting it.

So where do we start?

We need to read more opinions that we disagree with; we need to start challenging ourselves as individuals so we do not become too passive, too accepting. It is crucial we do not believe everything we read and that we question everything.

This is where LRC comes in. We are a political blog with no one specific political allegiance and are open to all beliefs. One minute you might be reading something on abolishing billionaires, the next on rejecting ‘woke’ culture.

It aims to encapsulate the variety of views on the left, on the right and anywhere in between, as well as the chaotic and fragmented state of politics.

But does this not just make us another algorithm?

Maybe, but we will not tailor your reading experience insofar as prioritising what you read and in what order. Instead, LRC will strive to represent as many views as possible, giving all an equal platform to thrive.

Anything of quality submitted to us, so long as it does not incite violence, hatred, oppression or discrimination, will be given a platform.

We aim to show that different political beliefs, and the people that hold them, can meaningfully co-exist with one another.

As for the reader – well, how much and what you read is up to you. LRC simply hopes to provide you with a variety of different perspectives, so that you can make up your own mind.

So, what are you waiting for? Get reading on LeftRight to Centre and see where you land!